We May Be In The Upside Down

We May Be In The Upside Down - Among The Olive Trees
Photography by McCall Olsen

Y’all, I am struggling.

I don’t know how else to tell you than very plainly.

But before I get into it, let’s make it clear that I’m not actually struggling.

As I mentioned in my last post, the few things I’m mourning are first-world category privileges. And I’m keenly aware that while I’m grieving reunions and travel, others are grieving the lives of their loved ones. There’s a tension to processing this pandemic and its endless drain while also acknowledging my ongoing employment and good health.

In large part, the security I am experiencing has spurred me to “do my part” by donating to organizations I trust and brainstorming opportunities to feed children who are not in school (more on that to come).

But when I’m dredging through the day-to-day, I honestly feel like one inconvenience short of laying in the fetal position in bed and giving up entirely. This is constant. Each day, I get through what needs to be done and do the laundry and deliver communication collateral, and hell, this week I even pitched article ideas to the likes of Business Insider and The Huffington Post but when I go to bed at night, I know I’m merely cobbling my efforts together while resisting exhaustion and the dread of powerlessness against structures like capitalism, and oh I don’t know, political corruption.

I think Covid-19 took the wind out of all our sails sometimes around early May when it became clear its impact would continue to ripple through the fabric of our lives instead of going away like his Supreme Idiocy said it would.


Speaking of the Spud in Chief, let’s take a look at some of the headlines the USA is making this week:

Trump Wishes Well For Human Trafficker and Long-time Pal Ghislaine Maxwell

USA on Track To Reach 1 Million New Cases of Coronavirus in 2 Weeks

Unidentified Federal Agents Deploy Tear Gas Against Portland Moms in Support of Black Lives Matter

Kanye’s Bid for Presidency is Shadowed by Manic Breakdown

Florida GOP Representative Calls Respected Congresswoman AOC a “F*cking B*tch

I think I need to go lie down after typing these out.

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Things I’m Sad About 2020 Edition

This week I’ve been feeling down and being sad is rarely a subject I hesitate to talk about. I don’t think we’ve normalized having the blues or requiring the occasional cry enough.

Melancholy, in my experience, is a lot harder to name when it isn’t tethered to any single thing. Lately for me, it’s been everything. But also a ton of little things. I thought writing a list of what I am justifiably bummed about would help me feel grounded again. It did.

  1. This was the first year I applied for and received a scholarship to the Festival of Faith & Writing which I was due to attend in Michigan in April (originally canceled, now digital)
  2. Roy had surprised me with tickets to a music festival in Miami we were supposed to attend in May (postponed)
  3. Canceled my Bachelorette weekend plans and the following travel, Roy canceled a retreat in the mountains he had planned with the guys
  4. The premiere of A Quiet Place II was pushed from March to September on account of the actual dystopia occurring… and I was really excited to see it for my bday, I will never forgive John Krasinski for not replying when I tweeted I’d give him $20 to stream it
  5. I’ve experienced more social anxiety over the last few months than I have in years prior
  6. We reduced our wedding guest list from 75 people to 40
  7. And will 85% most likely have to indefinitely postpone the wedding celebration altogether anyway

This list is peanuts in comparison to the hardship and tragedy others are experiencing at this point in history.

Yet there’s a certain comfort restored when we collectively acknowledge the millions of different ways this isn’t the year any of us imagined.

What are you mourning as a result of Covid?

A Muddled Response To COVID-19 From The Swamps

CROCODILE & SNAKE. A crocodile of Surinam attempting to devour a snake. Line engraving, c1705, by Maria Sibylla Merian.

I have a friend experiencing the excitement of a new relationship with a thoughtful partner she’s very fond of. We were texting earlier tonight when she suggested a trip between the two of them and Roy and I. My heart leaped.

I began brainstorming with excitement where we would go.

Then I remembered the pandemic.

The other day I was walking around the neighborhood peacefully lost in my thoughts when a stranger suddenly appeared wearing sunglasses and a medical paper mask in 90-degree heat.

I remembered the pandemic.

Although my husband and I were wed in a civil ceremony, we planned to host a larger gathering of friends and family in December. He was supposed to head to his bachelor party next weekend. I was headed overseas for my own reunion with friends next month. Both trips are no longer happening.

The wedding invites I ordered earlier this month arrived in the mail. Today I designed a note to assure our guests we are monitoring the pandemic and fully prepared to cancel the event for the safety of our loved ones, check the website for any updates.

Monitoring the pandemic.

How does one monitor a pandemic exactly? Do you count by the number of masks you see in public on any given day? The layoffs resulted? The total number of those who get sick? And what of the 120,000 people in the US that have already died?

Earlier I told another friend that being in Florida today feels like living on several different timelines. Orange County where I live has had a mask mandate for weeks. The county 15 miles north of me is still protesting one.

Much like the Western world experienced an entirely separate timeline against the virus than Wuhan, counties across Florida (and I will assume much of the country) now feel like they’re operating in completely different worlds, too.

The public perception towards COVID-19’s threat varies mile to mile stressing the political and ideological canyons that exist from person to person.

I am trying to navigate all of them as responsibly as I can. And I’m tired.

There’s no cohesive message from federal or state leadership to consider. And Americans are too entitled to inconvenience themselves for the sake of the greater good. We’ve known this.

I myself spent the last weekend in Jacksonville in an impromptu-reunion between my cousins, my mom, my aunt and my grandma. My grandma returned from being stuck in Central America for a month longer than originally planned for her vacation due to shutdowns. After her following time in quarantine, we were just excited, I guess, to finally see her.

I am embarrassed to admit we held this reunion now but Florida was “re-opening” — whatever that meant — after two months of lockdown. Restaurants and salons invited customers back, bars followed until they recently closed again and life was returning to… well, not normal but something.

Meanwhile, the state of Florida just documented 10,109 new cases of Coronavirus breaking earlier peak records.

Roy and I have no plans this Fourth of July weekend.

We have both been struggling with the increased rattle of tension we feel when we’re out in public these days and could use a return to our creature comforts for recharge. All I mean by that is I’ll most likely watch Bravo for 9 hours straight and things will feel better once I do.

At least until I remember again.

This Is All Sorts Of Feucht Up

Alright.

It’s 4:25 am.

I am very close to retiring any hope for a regular sleep schedule this year.

The last few months, I’ve been tossing and turning my way well into sunrise at which point I usually give up and put on a pot of coffee.

Earlier this evening, I dutifully took my melatonin gummies and resisted the urge to take advantage of the night’s quiet to do some writing.

Until I ended up on Twitter and saw this—

If you have no idea what you just watched, you’re probably better off.

The blond guy swaying his guitar like he’s trying to engage a distracted audience at an open mic in Nashville is Sean Feucht. He’s hosting a worship set at the site of George Floyd’s memorial in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A google search lists him as a politician but his Facebook page presents the following bio: “Sean Feucht is a husband, father, missionary, musician, artist, speaker, author, activist, and the founder of multiple worldwide movements.” According to his website, one of those is Hold the Line, “a political activist movement seeking to rally the global church to engage in their civic duty – to vote and stand up for causes of righteousness and justice in the governmental arena.”

We’ll get to that.

I first crossed paths with Sean’s er, sphere of influence let’s say, because of Bethel. Bethel is the more commonly used name for of The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California. At its core, it’s a Christian evangelical ministry dedicated to teaching the Word of God while also training students to heal by faith, evangelize, prophesy, and raise the dead on occasion.

The school isn’t accredited but it promises toequip you to walk in the gifts of the Spirit, prepare your noble character, and empower you to follow Jesus as He moves powerfully on the earth today” for a cool $5250 in tuition per calendar year.

Molly Hensley-Clancy shared a comprehensive report describing what the environment is like for students at Bethel that will captivate your curiosity whether you’re religious or not.

She writes: Globally, Bethel Church is mostly known for its Christian worship music — songs that tend toward the bland and inoffensive, but are wildly popular. Justin Bieber once told Cosmopolitan that a Bethel track called “No Longer Slaves” (now at 34 million YouTube views) was in his iPod’s top three most-played, along with Lil Wayne and Drake.

Her use of Bieber’s name is a shorthand to communicate how exceptionally popular Bethel is. They’re right up there in the collective identity of the American Christian with Hillsong and Chick-fil-a. You’d be hard-pressed to find a contemporary evangelical church in the U.S. that doesn’t sing their lyrics on Sunday morning.

As a result, I found myself playing their songs on rotation for years.

I moved on from their music around the same time I stopped attending church but I remained grateful for the many tunes that fostered intimacy in private moments of prayer.

My relationship with worship music has became a lot more fraught ever since I saw this photo.

Pastors, worship leaders pray for Trump in Oval Office amid ...

Bethel publishes a catalog of popular Christian artists including Jenn Johnson, Amanda Cook, Cory Asbury and several others. Many of whom are featured here during a “faith briefing” with Trump at the White House on December 6th, 2019. Sean Feucht, the blond touching him, joined Bethel’s collective in 2016.

I would going to say this picture appears innocuous at first glance, but that’s not true. Perhaps it would be if it had not been shared on the heels of Trump’s Muslim ban or the peak of his family separation policies at the border, but it was.

Then there were the series of videos where a few guests awkwardly yet enthusiastically shared their excitement about “so many good things happening out of this [White] house.”

Andy Rowell, an Assistant Professor of Ministry Leadership at Bethel Seminary in Minnesota, communicates the message these leaders (who are usually apolitical on their social platforms) are participating in here:

…the strategy is to sell these worship leaders (who have big Instagram followings) with a one-sided “Look at what Trump is doing for evangelicals!” so that they then turn and communicate to their fans: “President Trump and his administration are people passionate about worship and prayer, just like you! And therefore, you should defend President Trump and try to see the good in what he does. And you should vote for him!

Many in the faith community were disturbed by the optics of aligning the most influential names in a Christian music to a spiritually-bankrupt administration. The campaign to promote propaganda further co-opting faith in exchange for political power was far too obvious.

And it took place just 3 months prior to the election Feucht lost as a Republican candidate for California’s 3rd Congressional District.

His website offers no information on where he stands politically. A glance at his Twitter and Instagram however makes it clear.

At a time when most of the world is reflecting on justice work and muting themselves on social in order to amplify the voices charging forth the largest Civil Rights movement in the last several decades, Feucht has focused his energy on “exposing” the Black Lives Matter movement instead.

Here’s another tweet where he shared a doctored screen-grab as if it were real. Although people were quick to point out it was manipulated with a scene from the film World War Z and not actually footage from a protest, he left the picture up which makes the irony of the words attached lead you to wonder whether he’s participating in some kind of performance art.

After all, why would he 1. irresponsibly tweet this without realizing it clearly has “World War Z —Official Trailer” at the bottom of the image and 2. not delete it when he’s politely been asked to multiple times?

But as I fell further into his content, it became obvious he invites controversy and goes so far as to court it by posting things like this—

My general approach to Bethel, and I guess by extension Sean Feucht, has been to ignore them up to this point. After all, we’ve seen this play out over and over.

Public figure stirs dissension then victimizes themselves at the alter of the conflict they’ve exploited.

But when I saw the video of Sean Feucht playing Sunday morning hits on rotation at the site of George Floyd’s murder, I couldn’t ignore the harm this man is doing to the Minneopolis community and the memory of George Floyd in the name of Christ.

Feucht is treating a pivotal (and may I add fragile) moment in our country’s history like a photo opp, much like his hero in chief.

DJs and MCs local to Minneapolis who were offering prayer and community at the site of Floyd’s memorial were forced to end their sets because Feucht’s speakers were louder.

Why is it that whenever the evangelical Church has a chance to show up for the Black community, we play a sanitized church-appropriate chorus over their cries for justice?

This week, Feucht has used his platform to promote empty, performative amends between strangers with different skin colors while elevating his image as an activist without actually having to put in the real work. Instead, he’s lazily using Christianity to protect a system built by white supremacy while inherently benefitting from it. He’s using his platform to promote himself as an arbiter of reconciliation when we are experiencing anything but. He’s left the gaslight on.

Photo courtesy of @emmalouiseri who was present for Sean Feucht’s set.

One might wonder where Feucht stands on, you know, the work that disbands our country’s school to prison pipeline or strengthening inner-city commmunities with more resources or holding cops accountable when they use undue force to murder a man over a counterfeit bill. But he’d much sooner lie about why he was disinvited by school administration from hosting an event at North Central University.

What Feucht fails to get is Minneapolis is not a third-world country he can exercise his toxic savior complex on.

To add insult to injury, he’s censored everyone that has respectfully asked him to read the room by deleting their comments from Instagram or blocking them on Twitter.

A lot of the captions for his Instagram posts from Minneapolis have the phrase “CHANGE THE NARRATIVE”. And he’s doing that, in plain sight.

But what else might one expect from the guy that published his campaign logo over an image of Martin Luther King Jr. and then used it to condemn *checks notes* abortions?

I’m honestly annoyed I even have to spend energy checking this guy. This blog was not created to check middle-aged white Christian men demonstrating bad behavior.

Yet I am so disturbed by this disproportionate and self-indulgent response to the murder of George Floyd that here we are.

In February, Feucht told The Reporter, “I don’t look like a politician, and I’m not running as a politician… I’m running as an outsider…I don’t owe anybody anything.”

But as a professing Christian leader, he owes the Church accountability.

Feucht’s alignment to Trump has always been about an exchange of power: access to Sean Feucht’s evangelical following in return for being the man at Trump’s arm. As much as he might reject the notions that he IS a politician, reality doesn’t exist in a siloed vacuum we can protect with a block button.

In reference to his failed Congressional campaign, Feucht told the Washington Examiner he imagines future activists thinking, “If this long-haired, 36-year-old millennial guy can do it, then I can do it.”

The danger is that others like Feucht will.